In a bid to add performance and finally cure an in-race tyre wear problem that has hobbled its whole season, Haas brought a key update (new floor, sidepods, engine cover) to Austin to become the last team to converge around the downwash sidepod design pioneered by Red Bull.
But drivers Kevin Magnussen and Nico Hulkenberg struggled to notice any tangible gains to the ultimate pace or rate of tyre degradation following the Saturday sprint race last weekend.
To refine car set-up, both then took a pitlane start for the US GP on Sunday. The rear wing specifications were changed to break parc ferme regulations. Disqualifications for Lewis Hamilton and Charles Leclerc applied, Hulkenebrg classified 11th and Magnussen 14th.
Haas chief designer Andrea De Zordo insists that the upgraded VF-23 now has a platform that can be extensively developed.
He said: “It is already better. It is a little bit better than the old package. The fact that also, performance is better in these [early] days here I think is a good point.
“We have something that’s performing a little bit better. But we know that we can develop a lot more the platform. So, all in all, even if you didn’t a expect big step [initially], I think what we are seeing is positive.”
De Zordo added that the simulated downforce gains had translated from wind tunnel to real-world conditions and the aerodynamic platform was now more stable to address the outwash issue creating the tyre woes. Previously, the Haas also lost rear downforce on turn in.
But he acknowledged that the update had been compromised due to the need to work within the current homologated crash structure around the side of the monocoque.
He continued: “For sure, we could have done more extreme, only it was impossible to change it this year. This [would mean we’d need to make] completely new chassis.
“So, we had to accept it. We haven’t done all what we wanted to do. But we’ll leave that for the next year.
“To change all this year is quite difficult. We are targeting for next year… it’s something that step by step we are learning and we are improving.
“With this package we can improve a lot more than with the old package to have already something that is performing similar or better. It is already good starting point.”
Haas rented a workshop in Austin to fit the new components in time and de Zordo acknowledged that the package was “rushed”. He reckoned the team would now only bring minor detail changes for the rest of the season.